BELIZE CITY — Hurricane Richard slammed into Belize's Caribbean coast just south of its largest city late Sunday, as authorities evacuated tourists from outlying islands and an estimated 10,000 people took refuge at shelters in the tiny Central American nation.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Richard's top winds were 90 mph — making it a Category 1 hurricane — when it made landfall about 20 miles south-southwest of Belize City, whose neighborhoods are full of wooden, tin-roof homes that are very vulnerable to winds.
Richard was moving west-northwest over central Belize late Sunday at about 9 mph, and hurricane-force winds extended up to 15 miles from its center. It was expected to weaken as it headed over northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico today.
Belize City was devastated by Hurricane Hattie in 1961, prompting officials to move the capital inland to Belmopan. But Belize City is still the nation's largest population center, with about 100,000 inhabitants — a third of the country's population.
Earlier, Richard dumped heavy rains on Honduras' Caribbean coast and the Bay Islands, including Roatan, which is popular with tourists and divers. Winds of up to 58 mph were reported on Roatan, and more than 90 people took refuge in shelters in the Bay Islands, which lie between Honduras and Belize.